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Why I’m Not Signing the Petition For the Poe House

Edgar Allan Poe

To answer the obvious question: no, I’m not an asshole.

To answer the next obvious question: yes, I freaking love Edgar Allan Poe. I always have.

I have been to the Poe House. I went to Baltimore specifically to partake in his first and only real funeral. I read a poem at his gravesite. I met the curator of the Poe House. I think he’s a lovely man. I think what the Poe House and the Poe Society do are vital.

But I have a problem with the whole “the city of Baltimore must fund the Poe House or it’s screwed” thing. That’s an either/or scenario that implies there are no other options. Well, yes, there’s a third option, which means following what other museums have done and raising admissions, or renting out the space, or selling souvenirs. I agree with their assessment: it’s not feasible.

However, where’s the fourth option? The fourth option that many museums and other such places due to help with funding difficulties: donations. The way I read this, they’re looking for one person with big pockets to give them $85,000 (their cited number) for their annual budget. And to me…that shows a significant lack of vision.

There’s a petition to save the Poe House which I’ve decided not to sign. It wants 5000 signatures. I’m not even getting into the idea of whether or not I should be telling a city where I don’t live what to do with money that’s not mine. I’m saying something else.

The government wants to offload it? Fine. Let them. Let Poe fans fund the Poe House.

Oh yes, you say: that sounds easy enough. Well–do the math. It is easy enough. Instead of 5000 people signing a petition–what if they all donated instead? How much would they each have to donate to fund the Poe House for a single year?


You pay more than that for a night at the cinema for two. Instead of just saying that the Poe House is crucial and critical and so forth and so on: put your money where your mouth is. If just 5000 people gave $17, then the City of Baltimore government could go pound sand and the Poe House would be saved.

And seriously, if we don’t have 5000 fans of Poe–not just in Baltimore but worldwide–who are willing to hold off a night of sub-par 3D entertainment and give that money instead to save a literary landmark–then we are well and truly fucked, friends. One building closing is the least of our worries.

Here’s their contact info, taken from their website:

The E. A. Poe Society of Baltimore
c/o Mr. Jeffrey A. Savoye
1610 Dogwood Hill Road
Towson, MD 21286-1506

Checks can be made out to the “E. A. Poe Society.” I’m going to write “Save the Poe House” on my check. And I’m giving $20. And I’ll send it out tomorrow. I encourage you to do the same.

I would hope that the Poe Society would create a Paypal account or something similar where it becomes ridiculously easy to donate. And even have a subscription: set yourself up to just donate $17 every year on the 1st of January or some such.

(Or if we go with Facebook numbers, over 133K people “like” Poe. Imagine if they all gave a dollar.)

Let me say again: I love Poe. And I love Poe enough that I want the question of whether or not the Poe House will close taken off the table completely. Not just put off till 2013 or 2014. And the only way that can be done is if we do it. This isn’t Baltimore’s problem to solve. Poe belongs to all of us. So it’s our problem to solve. And the good news is: it’s not an insurmountable problem. We just need 4999 more people (or an equivalent) to do the right thing.


  • Like everywhere else, the City of Baltimore has a massive debt. Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Gov. O’Malley just announced a new budget that makes massive cuts, closing some state offices and facilities, nearly half of the city’s recreation centers, and a a bunch of fire companies. So funding from the city pretty much isn’t going to happen at this point, and it would almost be irresponsible to ask. I want the museum to stay in operation as much as anyone, but I also don’t want it to burn down because there weren’t any fire departments left around.

  • Phan: Good point. The problem is people want the Poe House AND fire companies AND this AND that and somehow make it all work, government. And don’t raise our taxes, BTW. K thx!

    Makes you almost feel sorry for the government. Almost.

  • You know, I was wondering when someone else would say this. Sure, I want the house to stay open, too, but I’ve gotten irritated by this automatic chorus of “let the government–i.e. taxpayers–take care of it.”

    If the Poe house is worth preserving, the parties who want to keep it open should be able to keep it afloat. If there are not enough people who want to do so…well, that says it.

  • First of all you sure have a way with words! Colorful too! Some of your ideas make sense,but here’s my take on this. Yeah,everyone could donate and probably save the place. While we’re at it,let’s donate to the Ravens franchise and stay at home while they play. Good business savvy huh? You seem to be saying that if we don’t live in Baltimore,we should mind our own business. I think the signatures on the petition speak volumes about Poe’s popularity all over the world.I live in Indiana,but the 500 race seems to draw a lot of visitors. They should stay I guess and spend their money elsewhere. In conclusion,my compliments again on your colorful expressions. Ever try poetry?

  • Hi Danny: Thanks for the comment. Yes, I have a collection of poetry coming out this year. I’m not being snarky when I say this, but I’ve read your comment over four times and I’m still not sure exactly what your point is. I’m not sure what the Ravens and the race, which are both viable commercial interests that can presumably stand on their own, have to do with a historical landmark that demonstrably needs supplemental funding. If you’re trying to equate those two things with the Poe House, then I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    But to the point which I think came through loud and clear: yes, I don’t see the point in saying, “Yes, Baltimore–we’re saying your Poe House is of benefit to everyone in the world, but on behalf of everyone in the world, the world can’t be arsed to donate a few dollars to help out with it. You’re stuck with the bill on that one.”

    I’m not sure how that makes sense or is fair in the least.

    Again, I know it’s hard to read intent in straight text–none of this is meant to be snarky. I do appreciate the comment.

  • Okay, although I appreciate the sentiment, there are at least two main problems with the proposal. 1) Although the annual budget for the Poe House is about $85,000, that is the budget if it remains part of the city government. If it were to be run as a separate entity, there are additional shared expenses that it would no longer enjoy, such as accounting and legal advice, and insurance. Thus, the annual budget would actually be considerably higher. (And remember that this amount of money would need to be raised not just once, but every year.) 2) The Poe Society of Baltimore is a very small literary organization, and let me emphasize “small.” It has, essentially, only one employee (me), and that is a volunteer position (and I have a real job to pay for food, clothing and shelter for myself). It is actually pretty amazing that we still exist at all. The Poe Society has not proposed any attempt to raise the amount of money to cover the costs of running the Poe House in part because it doesn’t have the resources to handle a budget of that size even if it could be reliably raised year after year. (There are a great many regulations and reporting requirements that kick in once an organization has a budget that exceeds $25,000. There are additional complications once an organization has at least one paid employee. Even owning tangible property becomes a serious issue and has to be depreciated according to standard schedules, and . . . well, I suspect you get the idea.) Lots of people suggest PAYPAL, but that service comes with a lot of fees, which are particularly heavy on transactions of small amounts. It simply isn’t feasible. Unless the city of Baltimore changes its mind, or someone with large resources can provide an endowment that would generate enough money to cover all of the essential needs, the Poe House will most likely close.

  • Jeffrey: Thanks for commenting. First of all, let me say that I understand what you’re saying here. And I appreciate what you’re going through.

    Let’s start with your second point first, which I understand better than most. Need Coffee is part of a corporation that has one full-time employee: me. I do not get a salary from this corporation because we have been, as we have joked for a long time now, a not-for-profit company. Not by design, we just simply don’t make a profit. So in essence, I too am a volunteer. I have to do other stuff on the side to pay for food, clothing and shelter for myself and my family. So I am totally on board with what you’re saying.

    However, if it’s $85K when you’re part of the government, what is the number if you’re not? What would be the number you would need to be independent AND pay for what’s necessary to keep the boat afloat? Does it double the amount of overhead? Triple it? If we had a number, we could work for something–I latched onto $85K because that’s the only number we have. What you’re coming back with is an amorphous, scary unknown rather than a tangible number that can be attacked. What if somebody wanted to write you a check right now that could cover everything and let you be independent–would you even know what to ask for? What if five people with big checkbooks showed up and said, “We’re going to split it five ways–what should we write down?” Unless you make the number real, it will seem impossible because an unknown number you can never hit. My whole point was to take whatever that number is and divide it up so that all the Poe fans around the world could contribute. By looking to one dude with big pockets or government, you’re turning your back on truckloads of people who might rise to take up the slack.

    So you don’t use Paypal (which has a micropayments option you might at least look at) at least give out your address and accept checks. Last time I checked, there was no service fee for depositing checks.

    Anyway, I won’t belabor the point–you’re the guy running the show. If you say that you can’t do it without government intervention or some one person writing you a check (for some amount that I hope you have in your back pocket), then so be it. You guys have done an excellent job of keeping the dream alive thus far and are to be commended. I wasn’t trying to give you grief–and I apologize if it came off that way. My point was just to come up with a way to save the situation since you sound, to me anyway, very defeated. I know what the battle is like, believe me. And I know it gets tiring.

    I’m just glad that I was able to see the Poe House while it was still intact. Thanks again for everything.

  • I have not attempted to determine a budget that would likely be required to run the Poe House as a separate entity. This is not an easy thing to do, and, quite frankly, the idea that we could actually even raise the sum of $85,000 strikes me as a fantasy. That probably does sounded defeated, but also realistic given the fact that the world seems to be crashing down all around us in so many ways, of which the closing of the Poe House would be just one, if a rather personal one.